Roman Reigns Is Wrong: 5 Better In-Ring Performers Than The Big Dog
Roman Reigns is great. He's a top-notch pro wrestler and, in the past few years, a big-time clutch performer in the ring. But he's not the best—not in the world and not in WWE.
Reigns believes otherwise. The Big Dog appeared on WWE Network's Straight to the Source with Corey Graves (h/t Sean Rueter of Cageside Seats) and claimed his supremacy.
"You know I'm the best performer in ring in the world right now," he said. "You can go to my matches and my pay-per-views over the last three years and you can say I'm an idiot or you can be like 'man, he's got a point', you know what I mean?"
You want a guy of his stature to be that confident, but his evaluation skills aren't quite as good as his pro wrestling skills.
The eye test, WWE.com's lists, critics' opinions and Dave Meltzer's ratings in the Wrestling Observer Newsletter (h/t the Internet Wrestling Database) all point to others outpacing Reigns between the ropes. The intercontinental champ has to be high on any list of the best in-ring performers going, but he doesn't top it.
The IWGP heavyweight titleholder, the WWE champ and the leader of Los Ingobernables de Japon all have reason to push back against Reigns' controversial statement.
There is no way Reigns is taking the gold medal for in-ring performance in WWE as long as AJ Styles is around.
The Phenomenal One is the most complete and compelling wrestler on the roster today. He's effortlessly agile, has a thrilling arsenal and tells magnificent stories in the ring.
Styles' WWE Championship win over Jinder Mahal in November proved to be The Maharaja's magnum opus to this point. That's a common occurrence; Styles excels at bringing out an opponent's best.
Expectations were ground-level low when Styles faced a 47-year-old Shane McMahon at WrestleMania 33, but it turned out to be a show-stealer.
He has flourished opposite John Cena in a series of classics. And it's not a coincidence that Reigns' top performances have come against Styles.
And while The Big Dog has a number of high-quality contests to boast about, Styles has him beat in that category.
Luke Norris of FanSided put together a list of 2016's top bouts. Reigns' name came up twice while seven of Styles' matches made the cut, including his SummerSlam clash with Cena that took the No. 1 spot.
Styles competed in six of WWE.com's top 25 matches of 2016. Reigns wrestled in three of them.
The WWE champ continues to prove a cut above the IC champ. In July, Anthony Benigno compiled a list of the best WWE bouts of the year to that point. Styles had two matches on the list compared to Reigns' one.
Styles' recent clashes with Finn Balor and Brock Lesnar are sure to fill out the updated version of those rankings.
As Reigns works to prove he is WWE's top performer, New Japan Pro Wrestling's reigning world champ Kazuchika Okada has been busy making his case as one of the best pro wrestlers of all time.
The Rainmaker is the finest in-ring storyteller of his generation. His charisma burns through the screen. Okada and his opponent trading forearms in the center of the ring is mystifying.
He brawls and grapples at an elite level and throws in high-flying moves for good measure.
Okada has been the consummate headliner, thriving against a variety of foes and making every main event feel like an epic unfolding on the canvas. Before Reigns can lay claim to the best-in-the-world title, he has to start outdoing what the IWGP champ did against Katsuyori Shibata, Minoru Suzuki and Naomichi Marufuji.
Five of Okada's matches showed up in Michael Sidgwick of WhatCulture's list of 2017's greatest matches. Reigns didn't make the list.
And Okada's masterpieces with Kenny Omega forced Meltzer to reconfigure his rating scale. Before Omega, five stars was the pinnacle. But after The Rainmaker tore it up at Wrestle Kingdom XI, the Wrestling Observer Newsletter founder felt he had to hand out a better-than-perfect rating.
Okada earned a six-star rating three times in 2017. That's not just better than Reigns, it's history-making stuff.
Reigns' claims come at a bad time. Omega has spent the last two years establishing himself as an all-time great with a run of thrillers that would make Shawn Michaels jealous.
If NJPW is going to truly break into the U.S market, it's going to be on Omega's back.
The Cleaner is a stellar all-around in-ring performer with top-shelf speed and flying ability. He builds to a moving climax arguably better than anyone, and his swagger makes all of it far more fun.
The critical acclaim he's earned from Meltzer and others is well-deserved.
In 2017 alone, Omega has racked up 15 matches rated four stars or higher in the Wrestling Observer Newsletter. Four of those reached or surpassed the coveted five-star mark. In comparison, Reigns has five four-star matches on his resume this year.
It doesn't matter if Omega is facing a midcarder or a marquee guy, Beretta or Tomohiro Ishii, a scrapper or a showboat, he is going to produce something golden.
Reigns is performing at an A level, but that's not enough to be the best when Omega keeps hitting the A++ mark.
Pete Dunne is special.
Not many fans may realize that yet because he isn't consistently on WWE TV, but The Bruiserweight is a master in-ring storyteller at a young age. In baseball terms, while Reigns gets more at-bats than him, Dunne is the better overall hitter.
The United Kingdom champ is a superior technical wrestler to Reigns. He's better at the subtle parts of the game, from shoving his elbow into a pinned opponent's head to shooting an unsettling glare at his enemy. Dunne is a grade-A heel between the ropes, while The Big Dog is stuck in character limbo.
Dunne dethroning Tyler Bate at NXT TakeOver: Chicago is arguably WWE's best match all year. The two men also produced a moving, enthralling bout in the finals of the United Kingdom Championship in January.
The 24-year-old has thrived in his minimal WWE opportunities as well as those on smaller stages in the UK.
For example, he and Donovan Dijak tore down the house at Progress Chapter 50. Tony Quant of Vulture Hound wrote of the bout: "This match absolutely blew me away and was a barn burner from the get-go."
That's the norm for Dunne. He's blending an old-school European style into the WWE way and killing it.
Voices of Wrestling tweeted in June: "Match for match Pete Dunne is probably the best WWE wrestler this year."
The greatness of Okada and Omega overshadows some of NJPW's other top talent such as Tetsuya Naito at times, but there's no mistaking the former IWGP heavyweight champ is an all-world in-ring performer.
Naito is an impressive athlete and a compelling character between the ropes. He's smoother, more agile and more charismatic than Reigns. Whether he's hitting a hurricanrana or a float-over, it's all a work of art.
And in the past few years, he has shoved his way into the conversation around the best wrestlers on the planet.
He has thrived against NJPW's biggest names, putting together a top-notch resume.
Andrew Davis of ESPN.com voted for Naito vs. Omega at the NJPW G1-Climax as his match of the year in 2016, a bout he called "a 35-minute classic." CageMatch.net noted Naito (along with Omega) delivered the two highest-rated bouts in their database ever.
Add in thrill rides against Michael Elgin, Hiroshi Tanahashi and Kota Ibushi, and it's hard to put The Shield's powerhouse over the Los Ingobernables de Japon's cornerstone.